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One Rouge Community Check -In - Week 144

In 2022, Louis iana had the second highest poverty rate in the US at 18%, meaning 845,230 people living in poverty. The number of Louisiana children living in poverty is a shocking 26.3%. And of that number 260,000 Black or African American children live below 200% of the poverty level. Pre-COVID data tells us that Louisiana children between the ages of 12 and 17 reported major depressive episode at the rate of 14.1%. This doesn’t get to suicidal ideation, substance abuse, sexual orientation, or gender identity. We know that we have struggled with mental health challenges due to lack of support services for nearing a decade now. Is there a correlation between these numbers? What does this mean for marginalized children? And what are we doing to support our Louisiana youth identify and address their mental health needs? Well, that is precisely the conversation we intend to have this Friday with guest speakers:

  • Tekoah Boatner – Executive Director Youth Oasis

  • Alaiyia Williams - Licensed Clinical Social Worker/Psychotherapist who specializes in working with Transgender and Gender-Non-Conforming individual

Enlight, Unite, & Ignite!

Quick Links: Notes, Zoom Chat, Community Announcements



Tekoah Boatner: Good morning, everyone. I am the Executive Director of Youth Oasis. Quick overview of what we do. We are a youth services supportive services agency. We originally started out providing transitional housing for youth and foster care, and we've expanded that to be a continuum of care of support services for youth. So, our main initiatives will fall in the areas of prevention, response, or stabilization. So, we start with providing essential needs. How do we get you stable and how do we respond to where you are to get you stable and how do we prevent you from even coming into these systems in the first place? Which is kind of what I want to talk about today in terms of the youth mental health crisis and just laying out where this came from last. Year 2, 20 20, we were able to open up our emergency shelter for youth and young adults, and we wanted to do so specifically so that we could cultivate an environment of safety and care and connection as it relates to crisis. We have a really, our society doesn't manage crisis well because we don't practice it. It's a muscle. Resilience is a muscle. You have to exercise it, you need a toolkit. And we don't talk about building a toolkit for resilience, which is why children are experiencing the mental health crisis that they have. Long story short, all of a hundred percent of the kids that came into shelter came in with untreated mental illness. And so even though we have all of these other services for like housing and things to keep them stable, what is going to happen when they no longer have these supportive structures that we've been able to place around them because they are not mirrored in society. And that is the basic struggle that most services have, most nonprofit organizations have. And now my other tangent is that our, as nonprofit organizations, we're fighting the wrong battles. We're fighting each other, and we need to be fighting the government. So, we need to be fighting all the people who have us in these positions. As a response agency, we are here to pick up the pieces, and yet there's nothing to put people back into because the structures that. Created all this didn't follow through. So, we have people in housing programs and yet we're releasing them into a market that's moved past where they were when they first came in. That's a problem and that's a problem, not with each other, not with services. That's a problem with our government and our structures. Anyway. So back to the kids. A hundred percent of those kids coming in with untreated mental illness and just to give data points. So of course, we've all seen the kids count data and we're ranking at 49. We don't rank higher than 48 in healthcare education, family or community services. What that means is our children have nothing to look forward to in terms of all of the infrastructure that is designed to respond to the needs of children. There is none or whatever is there is very poor so poor that we're not even able to get out of the bottom forties. That's a problem. So, if you have mental health issues considering that right now because of the poor mental health infrastructure, the. Pathway to treatment is usually the emergency department, which then bleeds into the issues with Medicare, Medicaid, and healthcare access. A lot of these issues are found at school because remember, kids are required to be at school, so they have, they're required to be at school, and teachers are tasked with the job of trying to teach in the midst of crumbling societal infrastructure. Kids cannot pay attention or lose grades and everything that is attached to behavioral health. The response pathways in large institutions lead to further institutionalization. And so, if you have a mental episode at school, if you are a girl, the data shows that you are 50% more likely to be pushed to the emergency department for healthcare issues, meaning you're going to be hospitalized if you are a male. Your response to behavioral issues are more than likely violent and rage, because that's the only emotions that we've allowed men to have in our society. Another soapbox won't talk about it however. They're going to go to jail, right? And so, what's happening to our children is they're either being funneled into hospitalization or they're being funneled into prison. And then when they get into these institutions, no one is able or willing, or have enough resources to de-institutionalize them. What we don't realize is that when we take people out of society, they no longer have any connection to that society. And so, the trust that is built in society is broken. If you experience crisis as a result of your environment, your trust in that society is now broken. Meaning there are no viable paths back into society. And incarceration, hospitalization, foster care, all of these things require children to be removed from the home for treatment. They don't require that, but that's the, so that's the response that we've given. And when you isolate people from what is supposed to be, what forms their identity and their place in society, you now have disconnected citizenry. So, what does that mean for your future workplace workforce? What does that mean for future educators? What does that mean for future elected officials? Nobody is in pa, the kids are not given a chance to even get to the place where they can study these things or want to participate in these things because as far as I'm concerned, what we are required, what we have created is a constant state of cognitive dissonance for youth because parents are still required to teach, train, and they try. And we're all trying to do the best we can in this society, but everything that we are teaching in our homes co shows to be the complete opposite once they leave our doors and then we're asking them to deal with the level of cognitive dissonance that we as adults don't have. And our biggest thing when we teach at Youth Oasis is connection. Before correction, you cannot teach anything, but what you can do is model it. Adults have not been able to model resilience because we don't have it. So of course, the kids not are okay. The kids are not okay because we're not okay. As the statement says, the mess rolls downhill, it's rolling downhill, and it's hitting the kids. And Youth Oasis is a small organization. We're not very big. We have capacity for maybe 25 residential spots at any given time which are awful all the time now at this point. So, the resources and responses response agencies that youth have are dwindling me also, because the services to the that's required for youth is intensive. And not everyone is aware of that until they get into it and they realize, oh, we don't have the infrastructure. That's right. Because our society doesn't have the infrastructure. So, before I beat the drum too long, I want to make sure I'm not over time and turn it over to the next people I have I've invited Alaiyia Williams. To talk with me. She has signed, thankfully, and I'm putting you on a s spot list, she signed an m o u to work with us for mental health counseling because it's been so difficult to find and we thank her so much for that. And I've also invited Lonnie, but I don't know if he was able to join today.

Alaiyia Williams: I'm a licensed clinical social worker. I am in private practice. My practice is heart to heart counseling and consulting. And I have signed on with youth Oasis through an MOU to provide services to the youth that they serve. And I also work in partnership with a couple of people. Timeless Tate in terms of running a trans and gender diverse support group as well. That's usually once a month, the last Saturday of the month. The services that I provide, I pretty much try to target any disenfranchised individual from any type of oppressed population. First and foremost, specifically, I target and seek to serve transgender diverse individuals. I am a woman of experience. And so, I think it's very important that I reach back into my community and serve them as well. But also working with people of color, specifically the Black community in rural areas working to develop and create more access to healthcare. And the reason why the partnership with Youth Oasis is so important to me is just all the things that Dakota just said as she was shaking the table speaking on just the infrastructure of our systems and how. That within itself has been set up for youth specifically not to succeed in terms of achieving wellness. And so, when I work with youth and I actually work with youth across the South, because I'm licensed in a couple of states the biggest. Things that I run into or that I see that are struggles for them aren't so much as their interpersonal issues, but the conflict that arises within their systems as they try to work through their mental health concerns and crisis, and then integrate back into what their lives are on a day-to-day basis, whether it be school whether it be community in terms of if they're involved in different aspects of church family aspects. And that's where the problem seems to come in. And so, I certainly agree with Tekoah when we say we need to address issues that are systemic as opposed to just looking at, oh, this child having this issue because of this behavior. And throwing the accountability of generations of a flawed system onto one person's issue.

Pepper Roussel: Man, look, when we start talking, when I hear you say that we have these disconnections I would really love for to hear more about where, if you can just give us, I don't know, 10 or 15 off the top of your head where these disconnections are. Cause in my personal experience just being a person who works with people and who interacts with folk, what I see is that folks go to institutions in order to get help and they get sent to another institution where they either don't qualify for help or they don't have the capacity to be helped. So question, where are these disconnections and how is there a way for us to, to circumvent?

Alaiyia Williams: A lot of the disconnections from what I've seen and live, start within the infrastructure of our system around the people who are in leadership in terms of our political system, our judicial system, and my opinion. All of those things tie in together even in our educational system. And I know that in some school districts things have gotten better, but where I'm from in Rapides Parish there's still a lot of work to be done here. It's a rural area. And so just recently, maybe like within the last year, there have been kids still facing issues of being misgendered or put in harm's way just for using a restroom. And these are things that you would think in 2022 that you know are a little bit. Cliche after we've been this has been a hot topic on the mainstream for at least a few years. But then you also see those kids then start to face consequences if they don't choose to conform or swallow down those elements of their identity, which then throws them into the judicial system in a lot of cases and starts that railroad that would then get them later in life into situations that maybe could have been avoided if the right supports were in place from the start. So, I don't know if that answers your question in a nutshell. It's not exactly 15, but it all marries together. And I'll say this too, we have to remember as providers that we are fighting. Centuries of an oppressive system and it trickles into every aspect of whatever systems are in place. Yes, things have progressed, but we have to understand the issues that we're seeing in law enforcement, the injustices that we're seeing within the medical field. These things were built into these fields, this system. Built in a way to keep us divided and keep us oppressed. We know that from research that shows the origins of something that's essential as gynecology where doctors were running, testing using Blacks, enslaved women as Guinea pigs for their tests with no type of control for pain or anything else. And so, when we sit and we talk about fighting these systems, we really have to go back to the root of that and really recognize that sometimes it's not necessarily fighting to change the system. It's really a dismantling and a rebuilding of that system.

Pepper Roussel: Piggybacking off the gynecological advancements that were at the expense of enslaved women, I would like to suggest that everyone, for their reading pleasure go and find a copy of Medical Apartheid by Harriet Washington. It is a hard read, but let me let you know, it is a necessary one to understand that it was not just then that this continued into I suppose the most famous would be Henrietta Lax, but there are more insidious ways that Black bodies were used as a laboratory for many things. All right. Now before I get on my own soapbox, I'm pushing it back underneath y'all's feet. There is a question in the chat, which may be a long answer, but, and it may be a short one, we'll see. First and foremost, who benefits from this institutionalism? Where, who is at the end of this pathway that is actually getting something out of this. Because there's always somebody who benefits, look, I see it. Yes, please come with it.

Tekoah Boatner: So, I want, I want to, actually, I'll answer this question by answering the other question that you asked about the breakdowns in the institutionalization. So, if you, people who had conversations with me know, I like to dig, and go down to the roots. And so of course the reasons that our institutions are broken and function in the way that they do is because they're functioning as designed. And what I mean by that is when originally poverty and welfare legislation was designed, it was also designed as a it was designed. Along the lines of containment. And so, if you think about war language, and my background is political science, so excuse that. But if you think about language of war, you have containment and you have which is a policy that was used around World War ii, which is we can't eradicate it, but we can't contain it. And what you find is that our response in us when dealing with social structures is either contained or we try to remove, we don't try rehabilitation or restoration or rebuilding of society because that's not in our DNA as a country, or it wasn't as it was created we citizens. Get to change that DNA, we don't use that power and privilege as often as we should. However, be you have the institutions who think about containment. And so, the idea is let's contain these issues by creating a subset of the population that can only. Move throughout society in very limited and defined pathways. And that is who benefits from that institutionalization is the institutions, right? Nonprofit organization that designation. And I always, my other soapbox is nonprofit is a tax designation. It is not a business model. So that TA tax designation was created specifically to shelter money, right? Again, we go back to the root of mostly all of our issues in this country, right? It was created to shelter money. It wasn't created to help people. It was created to shelter money. So, if we go back to why our institutions exist, We need to understand the motivations for that. And it's okay to understand that those motivations are not mine. All of us here, were born into a social contract that we did not sign up for, right? But we do have the duty by being in this social contract to make it work for the least of us. Those who society has, can't contribute, or shouldn't contribute. Those of us who feel like they can, it is up to us to change that social contract, to invite those people into the promise that we're constantly trying to build and rebuild and recreate. So, who benefits from the institutionalization is the institutions. And as long as you keep the institutions going, then the populist doesn't have to deal with it, right? DCF S will take care of that. O J will take care of that. Hospitals are going to take care of that. Oh, the schools will take care of that. All of that said, what's absent in that is we are a part of all of those things. Something lighthearted. I remember when I was struggling, I wanted, I didn't want to supervise people and I had a supervisor who wanted to promote me. I was like, I don't like people. And, she says I said, I don't want to manage people, I want to manage systems. And she said who is in the systems? Okay, fine, you got me. And that had to change. I had to reframe how I thought about that. And that changed how I work in this field. I to change the systems, you have to change the people. To change the people. You have to connect with the people and to connect with people, you have to listen. And you have to first of all, believe that everybody is worth listening to. And our institutions demand performance of worthiness because again, the reason that we created these structures is because we believe that they are fund, we've walked a lie that people are fundamentally broken if they are not succeeding in this society. And that's a problem.

Pepper Roussel: Listen, I am all over here in the Amen Corner. And I would also invite all of us as we listen to and ruminate on those words to really understand what the word succeeding means. It is not about the individual's view thereof, or, you know what, let me, what does succeeding mean.

Tekoah Boatner: That's actually just the thing. I talk to the kids at Youth Oasis and staff all the time realizing that we have a bad habit of. Normalizing success based on dominant culture themes, right? And dominant culture themes is really only an indication of who has the money and access to get their message out. It has absolutely zero to do with the worth of that message. And so, when we're talking about how to bring people out of, I guess the let me back up because I have so many soap boxes. I don't know which one I want to get on about this. Long story short as it relates to these institutions and it relates to how kids operate in them, our biggest job is allowing for alternate paths to success. Not everybody is going to go to school, get the degree, get the job, get the promotion, and buy the house, and have the family. Success looks different for everybody and our society needs to allow more platforming of alternate success stories. One that I talk about all the time that seems, I guess maybe, I don't know young-ish or what have you, but straight Outta Compton watch that movie to see the success path that is not often normalized in society. We remember NWA for their seminal anthem for the community. However, these are writers. Ice Cube is a writer. But nobody talks about that. The at this point, Dr. Dre is a billionaire because of his ability to connect with people about audio. He loves listening to music like that. That's not new, right? But his ability to rap, put him in position with the person who can make headphones that allowed him to listen to music the way he dreamed about it in his head. We don't highlight these alternate paths to success. And when kids stray from those paths, our society has a habit of saying, Ooh, no. That I don't know what that is. That's different. I don't want to see that I don't consider that successful, but it's.

Alaiyia Williams: I, can I just quickly add to that too? Thank you to Yes, please. I was just about to ask you to. Okay. I, what I see the outcomes of that being because I work with adults as well is that creates the type of environment and the type of norms that have people to place their worth within what they do or what they achieve versus who they are as a person. And the dangers in that, that I've seen come to manifest in treatment with a lot of adults is these people, when something goes wrong because we're human, we might face health issues. Life events may happen. That may stop us from being physically or sometimes even emotionally able to maintain a certain status within working. Then who am. If I've tied my whole identity to what is the norm of what success is, and so as I hear to Tekoah speaking of that, and as a clinician, when I inter engage with people and interface with people who deal with these issues, my biggest. My biggest work that I work to do with them is restore their identity of themselves independent of that and having them go back to figuring out what their peace looks like. And yes, we know that we live in a society where we're going to have to work to live. We get that, but. What is the most, the question that I always ask is, what is the most feasible version of peace for you that you can still do these things that are necessary to live, but not become so ingrained in this, that it then takes over because we're going to hit walls, we all hit walls we all have hardships. Things may not always flow on a linear path for us, especially when we're talking about navigating the system and the things that are in place that are in place in the system. As I, the danger in creating this culture, even the quote unquote excellence that we hear all the time Black excellence, that, et cetera, that creates a certain standard that people have to live up to. And if they fall outside of their standard, even if nobody outwardly says it to them, society starts to communicate, oh, what you're going through ain't worth it. You need to pick yourself up by the bootstraps and figure it out. You need to work harder. Do go harder, do this go harder. And for some people they need that respite and time to recuperate and regenerate and regroup. And I think what I've seen in the adults is these are people who have been placed into situations or have allowed themselves to be conditioned in a way that doesn't allow them the time to regroup.

Pepper Roussel: What does that look like as you work with young people to get them to a place where they understand how to identify what they need so that they can articulate it and then move into a space where they can demand that they can.

Alaiyia Williams: Yes. So, with the youth that I work with, I really center in on them doing a lot of exploration into the things that they enjoy. I say the same thing to adults as well who are struggling. If you can go back to whatever dreams you had in your youth, a lot of times the things that we dreamed about doing, and some of them may seem for fetch a lot of what will bring us peace and balance in our adult life. We can find from back then, even if we can't say, I'm going to be on stage dancing with Beyonce, but are you going to be able to then go into a field where you can work and do work that contributes to your creativity? Are you going to be able to be a person that works within the arts, if that's something that drives you, or you're a person that's good with numbers and you've always wanted to do that, do you need to pursue accounting? And those things. But also in addition to that, What does your day-to-day life look like? What do you want your friendships to look like? What is important or what are our important qualities in people who you want to be on your team or people you want to be a part of, your squad or your tribe? Those are things I think that are essential to developing a secure identity going into adulthood and things that some of us struggle with. And probably even into middle and late adulthood. I see some people struggling if they haven't met or worked that out earlier on.

Tekoah Boatner: I just wanted to cosign what Alaiyia was talking about with that rest and regrouping because that is essential. We don't have period places for rest and restoration. We, that's not built into our society. And that is also leading to this mental health crisis going on with youth because there's no place where people can just be I pose this thought experiment to staff sometime when I'll say, imagine you were dropped onto planet earth right here. You've never been, you're an adult, you have a child and you just got dropped off. How are you surviving? Based on what we have in society, based on how we move about in society, that couple that parent that child, they won't survive very long because we have. There's nothing that promotes basic existence. Everybody. Everything promotes buying into safety. The pursuit of happiness, life, and liberty is not given because of your birthright. It is given because of your access, and your access is tightly controlled based on the boxes that we have created in this society. Not the tangent I want to go on. I'm talking about rest and restoration here. Okay, they're not. The other thing that we are trying to build is a culture of mental wellness. And so, when we have video conferences and calls, we actually talk about mental wellness and we don't do mental health. And the reason we say wellness is because we've already have this stigma about mental health. And that's why we don't have the providers that we need. We don't have the services that we need because people we spent the first half of this country denying that these things were even ex exist in existence. And so now that we acknowledge they're in existence, we need to actually build a culture of resilience. And that is changing it from crisis response to prevention. So that means mental wellness. I, and it starts with your children. It starts with the youngest kids as possible. Understanding. Yes, I let my children have mental health days from school. It's okay. They'll be fine. Because you know what? I wake up some days and I don't have it. I ain't got it today. So why would we expect kids to have it? You think about it, if, especially if the kids ride the bus we subject them to 12 plus hours of a day away from us under people who have different goals and decisions that need to be made that often don't involve them. And I say often, but never again. Think about, try to remember, I know all of you young spring chickens here, but try to think back to your childhood. How much autonomy did you have and how much change did you have to practice that autonomy? How often were you allowed to feel how you feel? And it not be linked to your personality? That's something that we do with children. I was, I did a guest lecture at L S U yesterday and they were some students said, when did adults become fake? And their perspective of that is, adults just don't tell me what's going on. They won't say what's real. And I, my answer to that is We've taught them how to be fake, like adults learn to become fake as children because we're constantly policing their behavior because we're saying how you express this is inappropriate to this setting. And it may be. And so how we deal with that is we figure out, we teach those paths of these are social graces, but these social graces have nothing to do with your personality and you don't need to change who you are to be accepted. We have all these parenting books for high-spirited kids. And so, to try to teach people to stop breaking children because broken children become broken adults. And we don't mean broken in the traditional sense of you don't have this two-parent structure. We're talking about that identity. And now to be even spicier, which this is not what we are talking about, but when we talk about. Marginalized individuals like transgender individuals or LGBTQ plus people, members of the co queer community. What you really have is a bunch of people who have bought into this masking of society and they are highly upset that there are some of us who are saying, I'm not buying it. I'm not buying that mask and I don't want it. And I demand my right to live and show up in this life the way I was born. And that's decided by me, not you. And so, the legislation and all these concerns that pop up about transgender individuals or people in L G B T communities of protecting the kids, we don't do a good job of protecting our kids now. So, adding new things under the guise of protection is just a straw man. It's not what we're doing, right? What we're doing is saying we are upset that we no longer have controlling grip on this society. So, we going to legislate you out of existence. And if that not the history of this country, we legislate away what we do not like. Pepper, please stop me. I'm going to do too much.

Pepper Roussel: Let us open up some space because I was just about to jump down that rabbit hole with you. Jen Tool. Where are you? I didn't see you on the screen. Hi.

Jen Tool: Like I told Casey, I am speechless. Holy shit. Like all of this so much. I wish this was recorded so I could share it everywhere with everybody that I have access to. Thank you for this.

Pepper Roussel: Of course. Of course, the first place where you have where you experience some sort of a support system is at home. But I am fully and completely an entirely Gen X the forgotten generation. Those of us who were left to our own devices, we just figured it out. I'm not saying it's right, I'm just saying that's what happened. Thank you, Manny. And there are many of us who simply do not have that skillset. So how do we support families no matter what that family looks like, to get to a place where we can get our next gen, give our next generation of adults, right? The skills that they need. I don't even know what that looks like. I don't know how that happens, but I want it.

Tekoah Boatner: The first suggestion that I would have in terms of supporting families is, again, we need to go back and look at the infrastructure that we have for families. This is a completely made-up statistic. I ha I do not have the data on this, but I'm just going to say it because I like this number. 50% of working adults work, shift work, and yet none of the. Structures that support moving through society are open during those times. So, you are constantly asking people who the only job they were able to get is from five to 10 at night. When are they going to pay their light bill because they're sleeping during the day. When are they going to take their kid to the doctor? The doctor has to be sick when the daycares, you may have one in a city that is open 24 hours or have off brand hours. So, we have even just that we have, we are presenting saying you are, you have a respectable job if you have a nine to five that allows you to do whatever on the weekend, but you can't do anything on the weekend. Cause everything is it's, it is things like that. And we do not shape society to support the life that we have. And so, you have all of these people who can't, who have to choose between work or going to the doctor. And that's if they, that's. Taking away all these other issues. Like we're not even talking about the wages we're, we hadn't even talked about all of that. We're just talking about time. Again, school, something else I say all the time, public school is not free. I why People think that you can go to school for free. You don't have to pay tuition, but how you going to get there? How is the kid going to get there? Oh, there's uniforms we need to buy. Okay, we got to do that. Oh, there's a field trip. The kids' going to, oh, we got to pay for this assessment. Now, it's not free. There's nothing that is free in society, and that's fine. However, if that's the if that is the decision that we've made, we have to build in places for rest and relaxation, or just being something that's not tied to the money that you're making, right? As long as we insist on having these having this society function the way that it does, meaning that access is controlled by capital, then. We're going to continue to have these issues. We're going to continue to not be able to support families again. People have children people have children and they have to go to work 3, 4, 12 weeks later. And that's just simply not enough time. Or they're, if they are given the leave, they don't have corresponding pay and we don't have anything else in society that supports that. Our welfare programs, sorry, I said about that. Because all of these programs, even applying for these programs, you have to retraumatize yourself by talking about what you don't have and trying to find a reason that makes that make sense, other than saying, I make $10 an hour and my rent is $1,500 a month and I don't have a car. And the public bus system is back We have to first acknowledge that this is a mentally stressful environment that we've created for people to live. And yes, most of that depression is related to feeling like there's something personally wrong with you because you are not making, you're not doing okay. And if we continue to connect worth to capital, which is essentially what almost everything in society boils down to, worth is attached to the capital that is attached to you. Either somebody sponsoring you or you are sponsoring yourself and depression. You can't medicate a failing society away. So, when we're talking about mental health and we're talking about mental wellness, we need to first identify are we treating the effects of, and somebody said it, Reverend Anderson said it, of community trauma, collective trauma, or are we not even able to detangle that from chemical imbalances in our brains because the body keeps scored another good book to read. That stress that you carry affects you physically. Now you have a physical health issue and, oh wait, I don't have insurance. Or I do have Medicaid, but the doctor can't see me for three months and we're back on that treadmill.

Pepper Roussel: So Alaiyia I'm going to ask you through your practice, right? So specifically in support of LGBTQA folks what are you seeing that is maybe a parallel, maybe a differentiation between the things that that Tekoah was just talking about?

Alaiyia Williams: The things that I see especially, and I think your original question was about how to support the family system through that. The things that I've seen, or families run into the I would say bureaucratic walls of policies coming out saying that, oh, your child can't be treated for this really honestly. Or trying to push those policies, rather using fear as a tactic to scare them out of seeking care for their children. Threatening to ostracize them and their families. Most parents that I've worked with, even those who are really on the high end of the spectrum of struggling with their child's identity, if they identify as trans or gender diverse, or if they are of you gay or lesbian orientation, are their fears around what society. Initially it comes out as their fears around what society may think of or do to their child. But through some root work, you find that it's more so the fears of how they may be perceived as a parent. And so, when I see supporting family systems with children who are of community and I'm tasked with working with the parents, or the parents are willing to work with me the first thing that I try to do is do a thorough assessment on their own belief system. How they've been conditioned to think of things of this nature. A lot of times, especially in the south, especially in the rural south, is rooted in religiosity. But you'll find too that even void of religion is rooted in this expectation of. Acceptability or respectability. So even for people who don't necessarily say, oh, I, we can't do this because the Lord said, thus said the Lord, this is wrong. They're still, what is Millie going to think when I go down to the stop and shop and what are they going to say if they see you walk out in a wig with lipstick on, or they see you growing a beard and they know, you know who you were born as. and getting them to understand that first and foremost, we have to start within and block everything else out, and then let that radiation. So, start with doing your own work within yourselves. Then go ahead and start to include your child and their perception in that, including your family and creating it. Go meanwhile, creating that safe environment and then address the things that come up with society. A lot of times if you can get some of those parents to work through those things that come out to be some of the most supportive parents you would ever want to see but that is in a perfect world, because that takes the, what I'm describing is not something that happens, oh, the first session, this is going to happen. By the next session you're going to do this. This is something that happens over time because again, we're working to deconstruct a very toxic mindset that really starts on an individual basis, but it's, it was very much so generational as.

Tekoah Boatner: That is a very good point, that generational aspect and someone put it in the chat. Things that you learn to survive, if not coupled with supportive community. And some type of window out becomes personality and that gets taught to your children and they teach that to their children. And then three generations, like, why do we continue to do this? Because we're still surviving in a world that no longer exists. My mother my mother was born in 44 and yeah, my mother was born in 44 and she was on the tail end, the beginning of civil rights. But on the tail end of actively. Experiencing racism being called a nigger, being called all of that. And those are the defenses that my mother had to be implanted with, which means those defenses came to me in a certain way and I had to relearn and change that when I started becoming an adult. Y. All these things that we don't recognize as a society, the collective nature of the experience. And what I have been impressed by, or what I've seen after doing this work for the few years that I have is we don't, because of the way our society is structured, we need to return to the village mentality. And what I mean by that is not just taking care of your neighbor, but understanding that we are all in this in your neighborhood. We are all in this together and me helping you help somebody else. Help somebody else so we can survive together.

SK Groll: I'm just so grateful, Alaiyia and Tekoah for y'all taking the time today to be here and to share with us. I think this is, I'm seeing like the question a shot of what can we do today Alaiyia I'm hearing you say it starts with like your own personal work as well and It also starts with opening up spaces in our daily lives where people can be, I'm not just saying this for trans and queer people, but anybody can be something that is different than the expectations in that space and the dominant expectations. And that's okay, and that's celebrated that like rest is a regular thing. But also, when we talk about trans and queer people, we're not talking about this as if it's some. Else, someone else, something else. I think for me, as a trans and queer person who is now solidly in my adulthood, but it took a moment when I was younger and learning that there were other queer people that had come before me because my small town growing up that was so divorced from my daily existence. And so, we all have the right to see ourselves in the past. We all have the right to see ourselves in the present. We all have the right to see ourselves in the future. It's one of the dangers of when we talk about the. Book bands that are actively being discussed right now when we talk about erasure from curricula and critical scholarship being de denigrated, this is the danger is we deserve to see ourselves. We have a legacy, we have ancestors, we have history, right? And that matters because we aren't the first people to live outside of norms or to question things. And we won't be the last. But if those conversations are always hush, or I'll have people come up to me when I talk about queerness and transness, especially in Baton Rouge community meetings. And they'll pull me aside afterwards and say I know somebody or somebody in my church, or somebody so and or that's just not what we talk about here in this way. And I've lived here for nearly a decade, and I'm really sick of having those hush conversations after the meeting. I just am tired of. And I'm tired of it with the increasing legislative tax. I want everybody to be full in their daily lives in supporting those of us who are most marginalized. And I believe that this group of people can do it. I just, I see us constantly getting so close, but stopping and still whispering the end part. Say it with your full chest. I really need it this spring. Say it with your full chest. I something that I've I appreciate that so much because that's essentially what I want. And something that we can all do that we do with our kids that we realize you have to teach people how to be.

Tekoah Boatner: Because freedom as we defined it is not free. And so, a lot of what we do is not as important as why we do it. And ultimately what we are doing is trying to free the kids because we start gating them very early through all of these institutions. We start to just start slapping down boundary after the boundary and the creativity is gone. By the time they, it is time for them to think creatively about these situations. We've sucked all the creativity out of them. Out. Everybody,

Pepper Roussel: Casey's been over there shaking his head for the past hour, and I see that he's still ruminating on what words. So, we're going to come back to you. So just in general, I don't know too many folks who would openly and outwardly ever say or think, we want for folks to live in the shadows. We want for folks to feel marginalized. We want for people not to be their full and authentic selves. We do have a plethora of legislation, laws, rules, policies that come out of agencies. So very separate from the laws that we live by on a regular basis, but certainly the cultural norms that we have to navigate, especially going through systems like DCFS. So is there and I recognize that it's not going to be clear but is there some sort of way that we might be able to move the needle for. For little Black boys that I saw in the chat that their behavior is always criminalized for little Black girls who not in the chat but are suspended at a rate that is just insane in comparison to everybody else. For those folks who are trans, queer, gay, lesbian, and whatever the situation might happen to be for their gender nonconforming identities or even their sexuality, how do we get to a what is this?

Tekoah Boatner: My suggestion is, I think the first thing that we can do is everybody personally, if you commit to being an advocate for someone, and basically what that means is you position yourself to be a protective factor of a person, place, or system. You can if you know of kids that are going through a rough time in school, and maybe these are just kids in your neighborhood, choose to be their advocate. Choose to understand that the gays by which you view these children is not the same gaze that people in power are using. And so because you have a different perspective, you are able to advocate for them so that they get to see what advocacy looks like and they begin to embody it themselves.

Alaiyia Williams: You just took me by for a little bit as I heard you mention that Pepper about how do we get our kids prepared as a person now who had never planned on being a parent. I've been a parent for the past four years now, and it's scary. I'm going to tell you the world raising a child. I have now 12-year-old, he just turned 12. And this climate and this world, a little Black boy that shows up as a Black boy, a little chocolate, beautiful boy at that. It's scary out here. And so the way that I as a parent navigate with him is giving him the freedoms to express himself. Teaching him how to emote and be in touch with his emotions and making him understand that it's okay for him to show emotions and his. Showing of emotions doesn't dictate him being any less how he identifies right now, he's a little masculine child, so it doesn't take away from his masculinity. It doesn't make him soft or quote unquote pump cause he needs to cry. He's been through a lot, and I want to create the space for him to be able to have that outlet. And I think the more that we do that with our kids, not just around for his, in his instance, he's been through a lot of trauma. He's my biological mess. He's been through a lot of trauma that I have to work through with him. But it a lot of real-life trauma like loss. But it can transpose to any situation with the needs. If you have a youth that's been through trauma in terms of abuse or sexual abuse, any type of trauma in terms of their identity and their family not embracing them. If you can work with the child to help them and help the family system create a safe space for them to come and just be and express, a lot of times kids will figure it out. The things that this generation has that you know. I feel like even in our generation and I'm 40 so even when I was coming of age, we didn't have a lot of the insight into our care that I'm seeing that this younger generation has. We didn't have, or we, some of us did, but many of us didn't feel like we had a platform to stand on to fight through. There were outliers for that. Now this new generation is no, this is who I am and you're not going to tell me the different, this is how I show up and this is what I deserve. And that's what I want to empower in all of our kids. Not just queer youth, but all of us to say, you deserve a space to show up how you want to show up and you deserve to pursue the life that you want to pursue. It doesn't have to be tied to a dollar value. It doesn't have to be tied to a status. You deserve to show up how you choose to show up. And so that's why. It's important to be very intentional about letting your child experience and grow because you never know the trauma that you're causing them. Even by making off comments about other communities that you right now feel, don't apply to them. I don't know what the future may hold and how my nephew may choose to or may let me know. He identifies later on in life right now. I know he's a little boy, so that's how I'm going to respect him and respect him as that. But I want to give him the space to, if he ever comes to me and talks to me about that, to know that he's safe. Because even with me as a trans woman, there is still an element sometimes that with me being an effeminate woman, there's a binary element to that. So, what if he comes and says he's non-binary? And what if I still have the same mindset? Look, you either going to be a boy or girl, which one you going to be? That's not a healthy mindset in a time where several people are finding their voices and they don't always fall on the spectrum of what's fine there.

Casey Phillips: So many thoughts. Gratitude to both of you and to everybody that shared space, right? I'm like, quietly, I'm just as inspired as I'm falling apart inside, right? So, I appreciate y'all sharing such truth today. Thanks for that. One of the, there are so many things to, to address. I'll just, the couple of 'em that come to mind of what you can do. You have to fight like hell for people that you care about in this community. That you don't have direct skin in the game to benefit from. That's a really thing. You have to like, fight for people, their rights, their space that at all. You don't stop enough and listen, as Tekoah said, deeply. You'll receive you'll receive lessons and tongue latching from both sides while you're fighting. And you can't let that stop you. You have to always be learning while you're fighting.

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